By David Hein
Ramunas Siskauskas led four players in double figures with 21 points as Lithuania over-powered Slovenia 80-61 to remain the only undefeated at the 2007 EuroBasket and set up a quarter-final showdown with Croatia.
Slovenia, who also came into the game with a perfect record, succumbed to Lithuania's overall size and depth, getting out-rebounded 44-22 while being out-scored 28-14 in the
final 15 minutes.
|Team leader Sarunas Jasikevicius did not play in the second half due to injury.|
The Slovenians will next face defending champions Greece in Friday's quarter-finals.
"We don't play a game over two quarters. We have to play a full 40 minutes. It's impossible to win a game in 10 or 20 minutes so we went step by step," said Siskauskas, who also added three rebounds and three assists.
"(In the second half) we didn't do anything really different but we improved our defense a bit from the first half and tried to do what works for us on offense. And the result shows it worked."
Darius Songalia had 17 points, Ksistof Lavrinovic scored 14 and Rimantas Kaukenas chipped in 11 points and four assists.
Lithuania's star play-maker Sarunas Jasikevicius didn't play in the second half due to a left hamstring problem and tallied two points, three rebounds and two assists in 15 minutes.
Jaka Lakovic paced the Slovenians with 15 points while Matjaz Smodis added 11 points in a losing effort.
"Lithuania is a very strong team and tonight they were simply better than us. In some situations we didn't react well. We stayed in the game until midway through the third quarter. Lithuania play team basketball, everybody is playing tough defense and strong offense," said Lakovic.
The game was highly intense but just as high in quality as well - at least until the Lithuanians showed their dominance in a battle of two of Europe's most efficient and balanced teams.
Despite some 1,000 Lithuanian fans seemingy turning Madrid's Telefonica Arena into a home match in Kaunas, Lithuania trailed 14-12 midway through the first quarter. But Ramunas Butautas's side held Slovenia scoreless for 2:30 and pushed ahead 21-14 on their way to a 26-18 lead after one period.
Slovenia worked hard defensively in the second quarter and were able to use an 11-4 run to cut the deficit to 30-29 with five minutes left in the half.
Lithuania still led 38-37 before Kaukenas and Siskauskas both drained long bombs for a 44-41 Lithuania lead at the break.
Slovenia began to run out of weapons and get worn down by the never-ending warehouse of defenders and scorers from the Lithuania bench.
A lay-up by Matjaz Smodis trimmed the deficit to 52-47 halfway through the third quarter but the Baltic powers went on an 11-2 run to open their first double-digit cushion and led 63-49 going into the fourth quarter.
Uros Slokar trimmed the margin to 63-53 but Lithuania reeled off seven straight points and would eventually increase the lead to 20 points in the final minute.